About Don Terner

I. Donald Terner was an entrepreneur, innovator, and leading builder of affordable housing. As the principal founder and first executive director of BRIDGE Housing Corporation, Don’s mantra for assessing the value of a development project was Quality, Quantity and Affordability. He understood that while government or the private sector alone could not overcome the many obstacles to building enough affordable housing to house America’s low-income and working class families, a new type entity—the entrepreneurial non-profit builder—might be able to do the job. And so, in 1982, with seed funding from the San Francisco Foundation and the help of city planners, community entrepreneurs, designers, and professional developers, Terner set out to realize his vision in the form of BRIDGE Housing Corporation. Twenty years later, BRIDGE has built over 10,000 units of affordable family housing.

Terner’s vision can be summarized in five succinct principles that, ten years after his untimely death, have become the touchstone of successful affordable housing development in both cities and suburbs:

  • Affordable housing CAN be developed at high volumes;
  • Affordable housing CAN provide a high quality living environment;
  • Well-conceived, well-designed, and well-built projects CAN revitalize urban areas and help build communities;
  • Subsidized housing CAN be successfully mixed with market-rate housing;
  • Affordable housing CAN be successfully integrated with other urban land uses.

In addition to serving as founding President of BRIDGE Housing Corporation, Don was a founder and director of the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (U-HAB), a professor at M.I.T, Harvard, and UC Berkeley, and the Director of the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

On April 3, 1996, Don Terner lost his life in a humanitarian mission to help war-torn Bosnia respond to an acute housing crisis.

In addition to this prize in affordable housing, the I. Donald Terner Distinguished Professorship in Affordable Housing and Urban Policy was established at the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics at UC Berkeley in 1998.

Other Ways Don Terner’s Legacy is Pursued

Donald Terner Residency Program at BRIDGE Housing

The I. Donald Terner Residency Program honors the indomitable spirit of Don Terner and inspires a new generation of social entrepreneurs to follow in his footsteps. The Residency Program provides an opportunity for a two-year fellowship in real estate and community development. The position offers a hands-on learning experience working in BRIDGE’s San Francisco office with California’s largest nonprofit developer of affordable housing.

Terner Fellows at University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism

The UCBerkeley Terner Fellowship was created for mid-career journalists, features instruction by new urbanists and other who are able to put local conflicts into a broader context. Each year, 20 journalists get a chance to become more sophisticated urban development reporters; to go beyond just reporting on the latest local controversy.

Portrait of Don Terner

Don’s mantra for assessing the value of a development project was Quality, Quantity and Affordability.